THE DEATH OF MUHAMMAD
|Tomb of Muhammad|
HAVING subjugated the Jews living near and around Madina Muhammad proceeded to despatch armed bands of his followers to the more distant tribes of Arabia, demanding, in the case of idolaters, either instant acceptance of Islam or death by the sword. In the Jami'u-Tirmidhi, vol. ii, p. 468, it is recorded that Muhammad sent his followers forth in these words,
أمرت أن أقاتل الناس حتّى يقولوا لا إله إلا الله.
‘I am commanded to fight against men until they say, “There is no god but God”’; in other words, until they embrace Islam. Needless to say, hundreds chose the ‘easy way’ of Islam, and thus found a refuge from the bloody swords of the Muslim bands which now swept the country on every side.
Muhammad now determined to perform the pilgrimage to Mecca; and in the sixth year of the Hijrah he proceeded, accompanied by a large band of his followers, to the metropolis. But the Quraish refused an entrance; and after some parleying a treaty was drawn up at a place near Mecca named Hudaibiya in which it was stipulated that the Muslims should return to Madina without performing the pilgrimage, but on the following year they should be granted full permission to enter Mecca free from molestation. Bukhari has preserved an interesting account of this treaty which is found in the Mishkatu'l-Masabih. Ibn Hisham has also recorded it at length in his Siratu'r-Rasul, vol. iii, p. 159. The former tells us that ‘Ali was chosen as the prophet's amanuensis on this occasion, and that when Muhammad bade him write the words ‘A treaty between Muhammad the prophet of God and Suhail bin ‘Amr’, the latter objected to the term ‘apostle of God’, remarking that if the Quraish acknowledged that, there would be no necessity for opposing Muhammad at all. The latter then turned to ‘Ali and told him to cut out the words ‘apostle of God’, and write in their stead the words suggested by Suhail, viz. ‘Son of ‘Abdu’llah.’ To this ‘Ali objected saying, ‘By God I will never cut it out.’ Then, the narrative proceeds,
أخذ رسول الله صلعم الكتاب وليس يحسن يكتب فكتب هذا ما قاضى محمد بن عبد الله.
‘The apostle of God took the writing, and though he did not write well, wrote what he had ordered (‘Ali), viz. “Muhammad son of Abdu’llah’ This story is interesting as affording a proof that Muhammad, despite modern Muslim assertions to the contrary, was able to read and write. Other occasions are mentioned of Muhammad writing, some of which are referred to in this book.
After the ratification of the treaty of Hudaibiya with the Quraish Muhammad returned to Madina. In the following year he once more appeared before Mecca with a numerous band of followers, and, in terms of the treaty, was granted the opportunity of performing the various ceremonies connected with the pilgrimage. The treaty of Hudaibiya, amongst other things, provided that there should be peace between the Muslims and the Quraish for a period of ten years, but in the year following that in which Muhammad made the pilgrimage, he found some pretext for breaking the treaty, and one day suddenly appeared before Mecca at the head of an army of ten thousand men. The Quraish were unprepared, and the city was won without a blow. Various campaigns followed, having for their object the subjugation of the surrounding tribes, and messages were also despatched to the Emperors of Rome and Persia calling upon them to embrace the faith.
Amidst these incessant campaigns the apostle still found leisure to promulgate fresh laws; and ‘revelations’ covering every conceivable sphere of life continued to issue from his lips. Some of this teaching sounds strangely out of place in this twentieth century; yet all good Muslims are bound to accept it as a revelation from the God of heaven. In the Qur'an, for example, it is recorded again and again that the purpose of God in creating mountains was to prevent the earth from shaking! Meteors are gravely described in the same book as darts thrown at the devils by the angels, when the former attempt to listen by stealth to the converse of heaven! Long and realistic descriptions of heaven and hell form a special feature of the prophet's teaching. Both places are described as material. Heaven is a place of shady trees and cooling streams, where the carnal appetites run riot, and rivers of wine flow to satisfy the thirst of men. Hell is a place of physical agony which God, according to the express teaching of the Qur'an, has sworn to fill with men and genii. Indeed, we are told in the same book, He has created men for the purpose. Even Muslims will not escape a purgatorial punishment in the fires of hell; and there is a famous verse of the Qur'an which declares that everyone will enter the place of torment.
Far from Muhammad being, as some modern Muslims maintain, an intercessor for them at the throne of God, the Qur'an repeatedly declares that there will be no intercession whatever at the judgement day. Even in the Traditions, which are admittedly contradictory on the subject, Muhammad is represented as addressing his daughter Fatima in these words,
يا فاطمة انقذي نفسك من النار فإني لا أملك لكم من الله شيئاً.
‘O Fatima, save thyself from the fire; for verily I am not able to obtain anything from God for you.’
The prophet not only confessed his inability to save others, he even declared his ignorance of his own future. Thus Bukhari has preserved a statement of his to the effect that,
والله لا أدرى وأنا رسول الله ما يُفعل بي ولا بكم.
‘By God, although I am an apostle of God, I do not know what will be done to me or to you.’ The same statement also occurs in the Qur'an Al-Ahqaf 46:9. In the Mishkatu'l-Masabih, in the Kitabu'smu'llah he is reported as saying that,
لَنْ يُنَجِّيَ أَحَدًا مِنْكُمْ عَمَلُهُ قَالُوا وَلَا أَنْتَ يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ قَالَ وَلَا أَنَا إِلَّا أَنْ يَتَغَمَّدَنِي اللَّهُ بِرَحْمَته.
“‘The works of none of you will ever save him.” (His disciples) said, “Not even you, O apostle of God?” He said, “Not even I, unless God cover me with His mercy.”’ So concerned indeed was the prophet regarding his own future destiny that he instructed his followers to pray for him in these words,
إذا تشهد أحدكم في الصلاة فليقل: اللهم صل على محمد وعلى آل محمد وبارك على محمد وعلى آل محمد وارحم محمدا وآل محمد كما صليت وباركت وترحمت على ابراهيم وعلى آل إبراهيم.
‘When any one of you (in his prayers) bears witness (concerning God and His apostle), then let him say, “O God, bless Muhammad and the family of Muhammad, and have mercy upon Muhammad and the family of Muhammad as thou hast blessed and had mercy upon Abraham and the family of Abraham.”’ To the present day, the wide world over, Muslims repeat this prayer for the welfare of their prophet.
In the eleventh year of the Hijrah Muhammad fell sick. Persistent fever rapidly weakened him, and it was soon seen that he was seriously ill. He seems to have had some premonition of his coming end, for he appointed Abu Bakr to take his place in the mosque as leader of the prayers, and then, in the quiet of his own, or rather ‘Ayesha's, room called for pen and ink in order to add something to his previous teaching. But the fire which had blazed so fiercely was fast flickering out, and Muhammad did not live to add the words that were to complete his religion and prevent his followers ever after from straying. The incident is important for two reasons. It proves that Muhammad could read and write, and it suggests that he left his system incomplete. Bukhari records the incident thus from Ibn ‘Abbas. ‘When the apostle of God approached his death, and a number of people were in the room, amongst whom was ‘Umr bin Khattab, he said,
هلمَّوا أكتب لكم كتاباً لن تَضِلّوا بعده.
“Come, I will write for you a writing (so that) after it you will never go astray.” Then ‘Umr said, “He is certainly overcome with pain; and, moreover, you have the Qur'an. The word of God is sufficient for you.” Then a division arose amongst those who were present in the room, and they began to wrangle. Some said, “Bring him pen and ink in order that the prophet of God may write for you”. Others of them agreed with ‘Umr. At length, when they made a great noise and confusion, the prophet of God said, “Leave me”’. A little later Muhammad breathed his last in the room of ‘Ayesha, and there, where he had died, the prophet of Arabia was buried to await the great day when every one shall give an account of himself to God.
Thus passed away a great personality. The purpose and limits of this little book forbid a fuller treatment of his life. Many interesting and important facts have been omitted; but we have tried, in what we have written, to remain true to the title of the book, and give only what is found ‘in Islam’ itself. The picture which the Muslim chronicles have given us is not an altogether lovely one, and we now leave the reader to judge whether, and in what respect, Muhammad may be considered as indeed a Prophet of God.